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How and why cells grow as rods

Fred Chang1 and Kerwyn Casey Huang23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York 10032, NY, USA

2 Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Stanford 94305, CA, USA

3 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford 94305, CA, USA

BMC Biology 2014, 12:54  doi:10.1186/s12915-014-0054-8

Published: 2 August 2014


The rod is a ubiquitous shape adopted by walled cells from diverse organisms ranging from bacteria to fungi to plants. Although rod-like shapes are found in cells of vastly different sizes and are constructed by diverse mechanisms, the geometric similarities among these shapes across kingdoms suggest that there are common evolutionary advantages, which may result from simple physical principles in combination with chemical and physiological constraints. Here, we review mechanisms of constructing rod-shaped cells and the bases of different biophysical models of morphogenesis, comparing and contrasting model organisms in different kingdoms. We then speculate on possible advantages of the rod shape, and suggest strategies for elucidating the relative importance of each of these advantages.

Morphogenesis; Cytoskeleton; Cell wall